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Technology and innovation drive a new age of sustainability in tourism  
Tourism has been the protagonist of the second day of the meeting of the Natural Resources Commission (NAT) of EU’s Assembly of cities and regions in Palma de Mallorca. Delegates shared views and specific measures to boost high-quality tourism through new technologies and sustainability measures to increase Europe’s competitiveness while securing environmental compliance. Tourism is the third largest economic sector in the European Union, sums around 17 million jobs and accounts for 10% of EU’s GDP. With 600 million visits annually, Europe is the first tourist destination in the world.
The Chair of the NAT Commission and President of the Balearic Islands Francina Armengol (ES/PES) opened the seminar stressing the need to ‘rethink tourism as to make it accessible and beneficial for all social classes and groups’. Armengol presented the Balearic Islands as a ‘model worth replicating in Europe as it shows the added value of public-private partnerships that promote inter-seasonal flows, age-friendly and accessible tourism’. Armengol recalled the benefits of promoting low-season tourism in specific sectors such as professional cycling, trekking and hiking and gastronomy routes. Armengol presented the reform of the tourism law in the Balearic Islands to regulate holiday homes rental through online platforms and the new sustainable tax, aimed at counter-balance the tourism impact in the environment and local infrastructures. The four Balearic Islands have a population of around a million inhabitants and welcome 14 million tourists annually.
The Director for Europe of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Isabel Garaña recalled that ‘tourism has been essential in creating jobs in Europe and boosting economic recovery and remains one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the EU’. Isabel Garaña explained the shift towards a consumer-centered tourism due to the raise of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), direct internet market access and the collaborative economy. The UNWTO Europe’s director gave the example of innovative mobile applications that allow for the reduction of hotel fees via the monitoring of individual energy and water consumption. Isabel Garaña concluded: ‘we are committed to work together with Europe’s tourism regions, and this is why the UNWTO and the European Committee of the Regions are proud partners in forging a better path ahead for European tourism’.
Following the opening by President Armengol and the Vice-president of the Balearic Islands Gabriel Barceló, the seminar was conducted by 2nd vice Chair of the NAT commission Emily Westley (UK/PES) from the Hastings Council. The session focused on ‘new patterns, new ideas: how public authorities can support sustainability and innovation in tourism’. It included presentations from Emma La Ferla from the Permanent Representation of Malta to the EU, Manel Porras, director general of industry of the Balearic Islands, Ilona Lelonek-Husting, from the European Commission's DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, and Pere Muñoz, director of the Balearic Islands Tourism Agency.  
The 1st vice Chair of the NAT Commission Anthony Buchanan (UK/EA), from the East Renfrewshire Council, chaired the seminar’s second session entitled ‘Transformation, innovation and growth: public and private sector perspective’. It included presentations from Herwig Van Staa (AT/EPP), President of the Tyrol Regional Parliament, László Keresztes (HU/ECR) from the City of Pecs, Bartomeu Alorda, Lecturer at the University of Balearic Islands and Elena Lacasa, from the Government of Catalonia. The seminar conclusions were in the hands of Ossi Martikainen (FI/ALDE), local councillor of Lapinlahti and Marc Pons, regional minister for mobility and energy of the Balearic Islands.

David Crous
Tel. +32 (0) 470 881 037  

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